Making ducks for Father’s Day
When my son was a (very verbal) toddler, he noticed that flatulence sounded like a duck quacking. One day, his grandfather was umm, feeling gassy, and did what comes naturally. Nic said loudly and with amusement, “GranDad, you made a duck!” My dad the linguist was enchanted by the phrase, and a lifelong silly inside family joke was born.
Sometimes, the joke was a mask at Mardi Gras.
Sometimes, it showed up in other ways, such as this duck-themed jigsaw puzzle I made. But it’s been a running joke for well over a decade.
Last month, we visited our little place on Fowl River that’s close to where my parents live in Alabama and everything broke – the air conditioner, the boat, the refrigerator, the car, the air mattress. Dad did everything he could to help us fix it all, as he always does.
We knew he’d check the place after we left, especially after all the disasters. So, we bought a seven foot inflatable duck we saw at Walmart. The morning we departed, we inflated the creature, wrote Dad a Father’s Day card, and left it waiting for him in the living room.
Ever practical, he says he is going to use it for naps.
Dad’s lasting influence
I love you, Dad. Everyone says they have the best dad there is. All I know is that my horizons are limitless because I grew up with a dad who
- * Assured me I could do anything I set my mind to and
- * Encouraged my brother and me equally at a time when that equal opportunity thinking was not necessarily the norm.
My father, my role model
Aside from his sense of mischief, scatological or otherwise, my father is a great role model because he
- * Loves to learn all things, whether poetry, science, math, history or what have you;
- * Shows me that a road trip is as much about the journey as the destination
- * Demonstrated by his lifelong love affair with my mother that marrying someone who challenges me, lights me up, and I love with all my heart is the only reason to get married.
- * Defines success as a balanced, happy life that includes family time; interesting career and life experiences and accomplishments; financial security; a wide circle of friends and acquaintances; being of quiet help to others; and ever-evolving new interests.
Dad, you also suggested – more than once – I be selective and avoid drama. Maybe not overshare. I’m still working on those .
I sure love you, Dad.
Happy Father’s Day to you and all the dads out there who occupy the same special place in their children’s heart that you do.Those of us with great fathers never lose our (not inconsiderable) smidgen of hero worship. It’s a unique and irreplaceable intersection of love, fun and joy, tinged with more than a little childish awe.
“I got a story ain’t got no moral…let the bad guys win every once in awhile…”
Billy Preston, “Will it Go ‘Round in Circles”
(Aaron’s name and a few other details have been changed out of respect for the privacy of all involved.)
In the late 1980s, I worked with children who lived in a group home. They ranged in age from eight to twelve, and most came from abusive backgrounds. Aaron was one of those children: eight or nine years old, a sweet, tow-headed, funny, fiercely loyal little boy, with loving mischief and a unique abundance of childhood magic soothing and lighting his wounded soul.Read More
Today, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against the proposed school voucher program here in Douglas County. This is a shame, particularly because the ruling focuses on upholding something called the Blaine Amendment, a piece of religious bigotry found in state constitutions dating back to the Grant administration in the 1870s. Its original intent was to keep poverty-stricken Catholics out of the public school system and simultaneously deprive them of any public assistance to set up their own parochial schools. We now link it to the Establishment clause, the separation of church and state, in the Constitution. But Blaine Amendments are quite different: they’re more restrictive and more discriminatory.
Fast forward one hundred years. When I was in fifth grade at Mary B. Austin Elementary School in the early 1970s, my neighborhood school was the most wonderful learning environment in the world to me. We children came from various religious, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, but I don’t remember those even being mentioned. Austin was a meritocracy, lacking much if any social stratification. Our talents were encouraged, challenged and supported.
In sixth grade, our little class moved to a larger middle school that was being desegregated. These new students, white and black, were behind us academically, but far ahead of us in worldliness. At that school, I remember:
- A teacher coming to school drunk and going to sleep during class.
- A student with a hypodermic needle chased a terrified friend of mine around the gym.
- My father correcting teachers’ grammatical errors when I brought assignments home for parental signatures.
- Classmates telling graphic stories about sexual experiences when most of us Austin kids, pre-teens all, had yet to even hold hands with someone.
The next year, my parents sent my older brother and me to St. Paul’s Episcopal School. Thanks to St Paul’s excellent academics, my brother and I were both National Merit Scholars. We both went on to obtain advanced degrees. We’ve had good careers (well, he’s had a great one.) We’ve seen the world as one of opportunity.
I wonder just how many of those children at that middle school perceived similar opportunity. They did not have the chance to move to a private school like we did. (For one thing, at that time, few private schools in Alabama had many black students. Now, thankfully, most are more diverse.) Mostly, though, private schools were, and are, expensive. School choice may lessen the limits poverty imposes on opportunity, irrespective of race.
I’ve followed this issue in my native Alabama and now in Colorado, for years. The Blaine Amendment continues to perpetuate the segregation of expectation and opportunity, just like we saw in 70s Alabama. Logistical challenges will arise however we try to improve our education system. However, vouchers provide children with expanded educational opportunities. They let parents choose the best environment for their families. They are a good idea.
Here are some common misconceptions.
Vouchers promote religion.Most, if not all, voucher programs have restrictions in place to ensure voucher students are not required to participate in religious instruction and activity. Vouchers are not about evangelizing religious beliefs. Vouchers are about making educational opportunity available to all. Some private schools have simply figured out how to better prepare their students for college than the current public school system. Students deserve the opportunity to attend these excellent schools.
Vouchers are meant to give rich parents discounts at private schools. They are meant to do the opposite – to give students whose parents have aspirations but not the financial means to achieve them the chance to broaden their children’s options. We can break the poverty cycle through better education. These schools provide better education. We can give more students access to better schools.
Vouchers are meant to get rid of the entire public school system, starve neighborhood schools, and change the system to a for profit model. The vast majority of parents – me included – support neighborhood schools. My son has attended public schools throughout his academic career. I loved my own neighborhood school. However, if a neighborhood does not have a good school, do we just count those children’s lost academic opportunity, their trajectory, as a sacrifice that has to be made to sustain the overall current public school model? Or do we look at ways, including vouchers, to make sure each child gets a great education?
Bad schools are only a problem in <fill in the state, but usually Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi… anywhere but the state where a voucher program is under consideration.>There are bad public schools everywhere, in every state. This argument can only be made by someone who lives somewhere sheltered from the challenges in other less secure, less affluent, neighborhoods.
Times have changed. Your experience in 1970s Alabama is no longer relevant. A few years ago at a middle school football game with my son, I fell into conversation with the wife of the coach of the opposing team, which was from Denver. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned that some of the boys’ parents were addicted to crack, so she made sure to pick those kids up and give them a ride to a safe place each night after practice. She said that they had a team sleepover each year, and it was quite a sight when the boys lined up “out the front door” to use the one bathroom in the coach’s home.
Her quiet courage and commitment were awe-inspiring. All played a rousing game of football that day, and everyone had a great time. But I was left with the knowledge that the challenges her boys faced here in supposedly wealthy Colorado were akin to those in 70s Alabama. Their life experiences were just as alien to my son’s safe suburban life, much further away than the 20 miles we drove to the game. Vouchers could help some of those boys, aided by a committed adult like that coach’s wife, escape bad family backgrounds, aspire to more, and someday help someone else.
If any of those kids have the chance to get an excellent education, however that can be achieved, I’m in. Children who are given the chance to excel early, in the learning environment best for them, have the best chance at a fulfilling life. Parents should have the choice about where their children should attend school. Providing school vouchers for these children, giving them an opportunity they deserve and might otherwise not even know exists, seems an excellent investment of public money.
I’m looking forward to the next challenge to the Blaine Amendment – perhaps at the Supreme Court level. It may take a few years, but so did many other great efforts when people sought to ensure equal opportunity for all. This is a worthwhile cause.Read More
What: Music, food and fun in support of The Manasi Project
When: Sunday, October 19, from 11-3
Where: Festival Park, downtown at 300 Second St. Castle Rock, CO 80104 (Across from Daz Bog between Perry and Wilcox on Second Street)
Why: raise funds for school supplies for the children of Hopkins Village, Belize
How much: brown bag lunches for a suggested donation of $5.00; soft drinks and Krispy Kreme doughnuts available as well
More information: www.manasiproject.org; phone 720.364.6875; email (infoplease…at…manasiproject.org)
I’ve written about my son Nic’s experience with the Young Entrepreneur Academy of Douglas County, a program sponsored by the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce. It was transformative. In just 30 weeks, Nic created a not-for-profit to help children all over the world obtain educational supplies. He was mentored by area business leaders and Chamber personnel, which simultaneously strengthened his self confidence (“These successful business people think my idea can work!”) and made him aware of areas he might need to bolster his knowledge (“I really need to get organized.”)
It began with SCUBA
YEA brought an idea Nic had nurtured for a long time to vivid life. For several years, we spent every Thanksgiving in Hopkins Village in south Belize. We live in the very center of the United States, and I grew up on the Gulf Coast, so I miss my warm water and sugar white beaches. When Nic turned ten years old, we took him to a class at Planet SCUBA in Castle Rock and got him certified in SCUBA diving. Rob, whose approach to diving is as close to Zen as I’ve seen, taught us carefully and thoroughly, and we all three did our dives with him at the Blue Hole in New Mexico. (We’ve been on several trips with Rob and Planet SCUBA since, to Mexico, and they are world class. We are so lucky to know them.)
The first trip to Hopkins Village
For our first series of dives, Ryc had already found Hamanasi, in Hopkins Village, and we took Nic there for his first SCUBA trip in 2008. It was – also – transformative. The local divemasters took care of him like he was their own. They joked with him, initiating him into that wonderful brotherhood of men who love being on and in the ocean water. He felt like he belonged.
Floods damage the area
We came back each Thanksgiving for several years. One year, the area had sustained some ruinous flooding. Houses were profoundly damaged. The school had been affected. The roads, basic by nature, were rutted and washed out.
Nic asked about what we could do. The manager of guest services, Karina Martinez, suggested he concentrate on school supplies. Life intervened back here in Colorado, and we were unable to visit for awhile. But he never forgot. He stayed in touch with Karina.
YEA provides a welcome impetus
When Nic decided to sign up for the YEA, he opted for a not-for-profit to help those kids he so vividly remembered. We talked about what to name the organization he wanted to found. We discussed the idea of charity. Nic said that charity sounded nice, yet somehow condescending. He wanted something that emphasized the respect he felt for the people in Hopkins. So, he asked Karina for various ideas in the local Garifuna language, and she suggested Manasi, which means respect.
He put together a business plan; asked people he respected to serve on his board of directors – including Karina, because having a local contact in each area is integral to his concept; got his tax id and other paperwork in order, and his not-for-profit was born. Every step took longer than we thought it would.Every step, though, he met new people who offered help, expertise, encouragement and – once he is set up to accept it – money.
And now…we shall see what happens next
Finally, though, his first fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday, October 19. Nic is taking his first set of supplies to Belize in November. He is going to try to make a difference for people who were kind to him when he was so young. The local business people here in Colorado have also made a difference for him by encouraging his dream. Someday, the children he helps may make a difference for someone else. That’s pretty much what life’s about, when life is good, when we share our goodness, when love and respect abound. Manasi.
Censorship and the Jefferson County student protests
The quote that started it all
Whoever controls the narrative, controls history
Something to ponder
If you’ve studied history…
Real freedom is creative, proactive, and will take me into new territories. I am not free if my freedom is predicated on reacting to my past.
Lent is traditionally viewed as a time for sacrifice. It is actually a time for personal transformation, sometimes achieved by sacrifice, always by appreciation and generosity to others. Over the next 45 days, try some of the ideas below – consistently – and see how your life is positively changed.
Try seeing the world through others’ eyes. Seek the divinity in every person you meet. Look for the child they once were, innocent and full of wonder. See the grace and, perhaps, wisdom they now bring to your day. Notice what makes them special and tell them. Thank them for enriching your life. You’ll make them happy and you’ll change yourself for the better. Simple, really.
- Write a letter each day to different individuals, telling them why they are special to you and why you are grateful they are in your life.
- Think daily of an enemy, even the person who’s hurt you the most. Thank God for their presence in your life, and ask that they be blessed.
- Give up complaining and negative behavior.
- Spend time in a nursing home or visit someone who is convalescing at home.
- Try the four kinds of prayer each day. WOW –something wonderful. THANKS – gratitude for a blessing. Shhh – listen and discern. Help – ask for guidance.
- Call the people you need to talk to. Give up texting.
- Make “found money” – the money you find in the couch, on the floor, wherever it turns up – God’s money, and give it to the poor.
- Spend time with your spouse, partner or significant other, talking, having fun, praying. Strengthen your relationship. Intentionally develop a new mutual interest.
- Take a picture of something you are thankful for each day and hang them somewhere you can see them.
- Volunteer. Perhaps at a homeless shelter, a food bank, a crisis center, a children’s home, or a pet shelter…wherever your gifts would make someone else’s life better. It will be transformative.